This year has seen a big increase in the trend for taking last minute vacations, with owners and agents reporting growth in short notice enquiries. These can be anything from a month in advance, to one I received last week from an optimistic renter on the highway, all packed but with nowhere to go!
In my capacity as a vacation rental agent, I'm often in the position of trying to find a suitable property for eager renters but on many occasions find that the properties they wish to rent are not ready for occupancy because the owners have not been expecting out of season renters. Those owners who are prepared to accept a short notice booking are reaping the benefits.
I have this in mind whenever I do a changeover at my own cottage. Even if there isn't a rental group coming in on the same day, I keep in mind that there could be someone at any time, so make sure it is left in a ready-to-go-state.
Refill Propane, Water and Other Supplies
Ensure there is sufficient propane, a fresh water bottle is available (if you have a water cooler) and that paper supplies are refreshed. That way, you can leave the place knowing it is all ready for a short notice guest.
Payments can be an issue if you don't accept credit cards, which most privately managed properties don't, so investigate how you could take money through PayPal. Only accept a cheque if there is sufficient time for it to clear through your bank; ask for a certified cheque sent by Express Post instead.
Providing Information to Renters
A streamlined booking process makes last minute rentals easy to manage. Make sure your pre-arrival information is up-to-date and ready to go, and you can fax it easily. You may find there is not enough time to post a package to arrive before the rental begins.
If you are able to, turn the heat up in the property before your guests arrive, if the weather is forecast to be cool. If you can't get there yourself, see if you can organise someone local to make the place cosy and welcoming. We always leave some lights on and tune the radio to a classical music station. The feedback we get from this preparation that takes no more than five minutes, makes it really worthwhile. I also do a quick check of the bathrooms and kitchen and bedding to make sure it is all fresh and clean.
Savvy owners know very well that there are a lot of people who make last minute decisions to rent and are very well prepared for them. They are the ones who maximise occupancy and create a solid income from low and shoulder season rentals.